North Burnett juniors set to stay in South league comp
THE future of the Central Burnett Rugby League hinges on the region's ability to get a local junior competition off the ground.
The North Burnett's only juniors, the Gayndah-based Central Burnett Brumbies will have no choice but to continue playing in the South Burnett competition next season unless the other clubs can convince more of their youngsters to play.
South and Central Burnett NRL games development officer Blake Mara is trying to unite clubs across the region to keep young players engaged and feeling like they belong.
"One of the things I noticed when I first got out to the North Burnett is there is quite a bit of divide between the different areas in the region, rivalry," Mara said.
"Kids come from right across the North Burnett to all play under the South Burnett banner and I thought it was very important early on for us to show them that they are a valued part of the South Burnett league brand, because there are a few different clubs and areas that feel dissociated with it.
"My goal is to build the brand so that everyone feels like they are a part of it and it's recognisable, so a Gayndah kid would be proud to wear a South Burnett shirt as much as a Kingaroy kid or a Wondai kid."
At this point in time, Mara said a junior North Burnett competition would not be going ahead next season as, without committees for the junior teams, he had nobody to work with.
"We're looking at holding gala days next season where the kids can represent their town's teams, so the Mundubbera kids will play as the Mundubbera Tigers, and from there we can gauge numbers on a junior competition."
A Beyond the Nest Development session was held in Gayndah on Sunday afternoon to give juniors a chance to develop their skills and potentially open doors to a future in league.
"I also thought that these development days would be a great tool to bring clubs and coaches together," Mara said.
"So, if I have a Gayndah coach and a Wondai coach involved with training, the next thing you know they are playing each other at a game and there's not as much yelling and jibber jabbing because they are mates.
"We want everyone to be reminded this is about the kids, and create spirit amongst our community.
"It's a great community and it's a shame we spend so much time going at each other rather than working with each other."
Prior to this year, juniors in the South Burnett competition would only have the opportunity to work on their skills in off-season at one camp in January and one training session before May.
"The advantage of all training together is that they are working with a higher level of coach, and the program attracts the more committed and probably better players, so training with stronger players means they'll get better results," Mara said.
"When you're at your local club you're really catering to a lot of different people in regards to why they play and what level they're at, so this gives the kids who are a bit more driven the chance to train with each other.
"The boys have been great, for a few of them it's a shock because they haven't really had this kind of intense environment before so I suppose it's a bit of an adjustment."
Mara said the aim was not only to make the juniors better footy players, but to try and make them better people through developing leadership skills and character.
"At training it is hard, where we have a coach trying to help 30-plus kids, whereas out here we have a couple of coaches in each group so the players are getting more attention and they aren't able to muck around as much," Mara said.
"We can teach them things like being engaged and have them take it a bit more seriously."
The development session primarily focused on core skills, the skills that the players would actually use in a game.
"For example when we're working on agility we have kids picking up balls off their feet and using their feet while catching, so they're engaging their hands and their feet at the same time and there is a lot going on," Mara said.
"We're also working on our tackling-the basic skills.
"We want to teach the kids that if they can get those basic parts right in their game, then that's what's going to make a difference. The better they get at the simple stuff, the better the team will play."
As the games development officer for the Burnett region, Mara travels from Blackbutt up to Monto.
He said while players and parents primarily saw him and the other coaches in hands-on roles out on the field, a lot had been going on behind the scenes to improve league in the region.
"These coaches have already completed about 10 hours of sessions with me as their coach mentor, away from the kids," Mara said.
"They've been giving up their time to learn about not only football stuff, but communication skills, and we're trying to make the coaches better communicators."
Mara said the biggest issue they were tackling, which was universal across all sports, was educating coaches to create an environment where kids wanted to stay.
"The biggest reason we lose a kid is player selection policy, for example some kids not getting as many minutes as others, and the other is player input and feeling valued which comes back to communication," Mara said.
"We need to make sure everyone feels like what they're doing is contributing to what is happening on the field, so I've been teaching the coaches how to communicate with players, how to get the best out of them, how everyone is different, what drills work, and what keeps people engaged."
The next opportunity for juniors to develop their skills and teamwork will be at a camp from December 18 to 20 at Murgon PCYC.